The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, says Nigeria will be declared polio-free in the next six months.
He said this at a press conference on the 2019 African Vaccination Week (AVW) in Abuja on Thursday.
Mr Shuaib said Nigeria has not recorded a single case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in the past three years, a situation he said qualifies Nigeria to be declared polio-free.
“Because we have been innovative and creative with routine immunisations, we are now at a point where we are just some six months away from being declared polio-free in Nigeria.
“I have no doubt that with our very encouraging record of not having a single case of Wild Polio Virus ( WPV) in any part of the country in the past three years, we all shall soon celebrate a polio-free Nigeria of our dreams,” he said.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, through contaminated water or food and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
Although many countries in Africa have recorded success stories in their fight against the elimination of wild poliovirus, total eradication of the disease has remained a challenge because many countries are falling short on surveillance and immunisation.
Nigeria is yet to be certified polio-free. It remains the only country in Africa yet to interrupt the spread of wild poliovirus. This is due to the Boko Haram insurgency which has made the north-east region of the country inaccessible for health workers to administer vaccines and ensure extensive surveillance.
Nigeria missed the polio-free certification in 2016 when a case of polio was reported in Borno State after about 18 months of none reporting. For a country to be certified polio-free, it must have gone two years without reporting a case of polio.
Mr Shuaib commended the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Ministry of Health in the progress made in immunisation coverage in Nigeria.
“For the first time in Nigeria, we are seeing a consistent and compelling improvement in the number of kids we are reaching with lifesaving vaccines. We have surpassed all historic expectations in immunizations,” he said.
Mr Shuaib said lack of awareness, the fear of vaccination by caregivers and the poor attitude of health workers have contributed to poor immunisation coverage.
He urged parents and caregivers to always make their kids available for vaccination to prevent disease epidemics and early death.
He assured the general public that all vaccines used in Nigeria are WHO and NAFDAC certified.
In her remarks, the GAVI Champion for Immunisation Africa, Awele Elumelu, said collaborations with the private sector is important in enhancing healthcare coverage in the country.
She said the role of the private sector in health coverage cannot be overemphasised.
She said: “Gavi is basically a partnership of the private and public sector. We want the government to be able to provide the enabling environment, the policies, the structure, and we also want the private sector to provide the expertise to meet these needs.
“It is through smart innovations like this that we are able to reach millions of children. We have faith that the new government in place will continue to put in efforts to health coverage,” she said.